Florida, and Orlando in particular, has long been one of the most dangerous places for pedestrians. In the most recent Dangerous by Design report, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro region ranked No. 3 in the nation for pedestrian danger index (number of pedestrian deaths compared to the estimated number of people who walk to work).
More recently, the Governors Highway Safety Administration released a spotlight on highway safety focusing on pedestrian accidents and fatalities, revealing some deeply troubling trends. To start, the final number of pedestrian accident fatalities is projected to rise over 6,000 last year, which is an 11 percent spike as compared to the previous year, and higher than it has been in two decades.
Specifically for Florida, the fatality rate is No. 2 nationally for its 2015 pedestrian fatality rate of 3.12 per 100,000 population, second only to Delaware's 3.38, which had far fewer total accidents.
A number of media outlets have focused on the fact that distraction among pedestrians is an increasing problem. While it's probably fair to say that everyone is more distracted these days, given the fact that smartphone ownership more than doubled between 2011 and 2015 (according to the Pew Research Center), to malign and blame pedestrians for their own injuries seems a bit irresponsible. Think about it: What happens when two distracted pedestrians run into one another? Not much. But when a distracted driver strikes another vehicle or a pedestrian, the results are often tragic.
Even in cases where a pedestrian may have been partially negligent in causing the accident that injured them, that won't prohibit them from filing a personal injury lawsuit, at least not in Florida. That's because here in the Sunshine State, we follow the pure comparative fault model, per F.S. 768.81. In layman's terms, this means that while we all have a personal responsibility to protect ourselves from obvious dangers, that doesn't absolve others who are negligent too. So just because a pedestrian is negligent doesn't mean the driver gets off scot-free.
This means that if a pedestrian accident results in a lawsuit and jurors find the pedestrian was 60 percent at-fault for walking distracted, he or she can still collect 40 percent in damages from other at-fault parties, such as the vehicle driver and owner.
As our Orlando pedestrian accident attorneys have seen, the majority of these cases are the fault of the motor vehicle driver. This category of crashes also tends to have higher-than-average numbers of hit-and-runs. Pedestrians who are victims of hit-and-run drivers who are never identified or not insured may seek compensation through their own uninsured motorist coverage. In some cases, third-party liability may also be asserted.
Looking at the first six months of 2016 as compared to the same time frame a year earlier, Florida did not fare well, reporting an increase of nearly 9 percent — from 277 to 301. Several other states' pedestrian accident rates increased at a much more rapid clip, but Florida ranked No. 3 in terms of total number of pedestrian deaths early last year. The only other two states where figures were higher were California and Texas.